As a flexible artistic medium capable of depicting the full panoply of human existence, comic books can make us empathize with characters from across the spectrum of behavior and help us to fully understand our fellow man with deep sympathy and respect. Then there's this story, which basically hates everybody!
YOU are Jennifer Marlowe! YOUR hobby is discovering rich hermits! Some people build model kits, some people make fun of comics on the internet, but you, you joined the "Find The Hermit" club and now you spend all your time uncovering queer madmen, and suddenly you find yourself standing there, holding a candle, poised with a shocked expression on your main character in a horror comic story face, all because you can't stand the idea of someone not wanting to talk to you.
Some might think it's hard making a living writing stories about recluses and hermits, but luckily the world is full of newspaper editors who share your inability to respect other humans and their foolish wishes for "privacy." Nothing readers love more than a little contempt for their fellow man!
"Now tell me your story, tell me how you left Wall Street and came to live in a dirty cave in the Adirondacks! Well, come to think of it, that IS your story. I guess I'm done here. Enjoy your cave, Gramps!"
Sometimes after filing these stories, she's off to the local real estate broker to clue them in on some amazing Phoenix and San Francisco properties that could have been available all this time. If only more people were seeking out crazed hermits!
Ladies, here's the deal, find an enterprising documentary filmmaker, have him immortalize that squalid, decaying mansion and your kooky, deluded travesty of a life, and soon you'll be rolling in that "Grey Gardens" cash! Now, which one of you wants to be "Big Edie?"
We've seen a lot of comics that explore the dark sides of humanity, but everyone involved with the creation of this particular story is really working overtime to radiate utter drooling contempt, right down to Bob Powell, sorry Bob. I know it's a paycheck.
Person after person hates humanity and wants nothing more than to be left alone and to never speak to anyone ever again. I wonder if humanity is the problem? No no, these people are crackpots. Humanity is fine! Now hold still while I contemptuously invade your privacy, for the sake of a few dollars.
And remember! In this heartless, capitalistic society of ours, money is the only thing that matters! These loony hermits are stinking rich, so they must be doing SOMETHING right. Maybe we should all live like crazy recluses. Somebody get me some Kleenex and some empty jars! Don't worry, they won't be empty for long. (that's a Howard Hughes reference kids, look it up)
"Well, ma'am, if it's queer folks you're looking for, well, head downtown and look for the rainbow... oh, you're talking about the OTHER kind. You want the old Blake house!"
If you're thinking of getting into the hermit-bothering business, remember, shock is half the battle. You definitely want to burst in on these people - these people who have made it very clear they don't want to ever be disturbed! - in their own homes. What's the worst that could happen? Of course, you want to make sure beforehand that you aren't in one of those states where they can shoot intruders dead, because if you were shot dead while home-invading some recluse's shack, why, that would be hilarious. Tragic! I mean tragic!
Let's pause for a moment and let ourselves be just a little smugly self-satisfied that here in the 21st century we are way, way above using mental health issues like avoidant personality disorder, hoarding, and social anxiety as props for mere entertainment. And now a short commercial break.
Okay, we're above using mental health issues as entertainment props - except for when we use mental health issues as entertainment props. Seriously though if you ever want to self-induce a house-cleaning frenzy I recommend one of the above TV shows because they'll have you de-cluttering within seconds! And now back to our story.
Focusing as it does on the stench of garbage, rot, and unwashed human flesh, this story was one of the highlights of the Disgusting Age of Comics. This category of comics is very collectible and has attracted the attention of many top investors, as long as they don't actually, you know, read the things.
And here we go, this creepy hermit holding the knife that vanishes between panels somehow knows our hermit-uncovering writer! Now if *I* was a hermit you'd be darn sure that I'd be up to date on all my hermit news through the hermit grapevine and that I'd know sooner or later this snoopy reporter would come clawing her way into my Fortress Of Hermitude to invade my privacy, and I'd be ready with a shotgun and a criminal trespass warning. But this guy, he seems to have a deeper connection to Jennifer! What could it be?
Jennifer's whole hermit-hunting career has been in service of tracking down her vanished husband! Well that's sweet. Wait, her vanished husband who vanished with the million dollars they both stole from the Crandell family, after murdering them all horribly in 1933? Well, that's not so sweet. Now this is the kind of twist ending that these comics always promise and hardly ever deliver, and my hat's off to you, comic, for making us wallow in human misery but for once delivering on the punchline.
If anyone tells you that tracking down recluses doesn't pay off, well, just refer them to Jennifer here, who not only has gotten even with her runaway groom, but she's helped to put a cool million dollars back into circulation, which is going to do great things for the local economy! Can't help but feel sad for Bill here, though. With his ability to magically transform a wad of cash into a knife using only his left hand, he could have had a rewarding career on the stage!
Well, that's the end of that story, hermit is vanished criminal husband sitting on stolen loot, and... wait a minute, GHOSTS? We have a DOUBLE TWIST ENDING here, people!!
The ghosts of your victims have trapped you in this house just like they trapped Bill! And now you're going to be driven insane by these ghosts as you claw at the floorboards, yourself the same kind of crazy hermit you spent years writing about! Now THAT'S a payoff, a work of comic book excellence marred only slightly by its contempt for pretty much all of humanity. But hey, it's the 1950s, everybody was awful back then.
And now here's the cover for this particular comic. I didn't want to begin with the cover for two reasons. The first reason is that the cover absolutely and completely spoils this story, ruins it totally with the over-explaining word balloon filled exposition that was the highlight of Marvel Comics in the mid 1970s when apparently they felt their readership was recovering from memory loss or was waking up from a medically induced coma and therefore needed everything explained to them.
Yup, that's the cover in all its Vince Colletta glory. And now, I'd like for all the fans of the Warner Brothers cartoon "The Dover Boys at Pimento University" or "The Rivals of Roquefort Hall" to happily recite along with us and Dan Backslide.
"... AND NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW!"
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